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    Chapter 3

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    Chapter 4
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    CHAPTER III - 'THE MORE HASTE THE WORSE SPEED'

    'Learn to win a lady's faith

    Nobly, as the thing is high;

    Bravely, as for life and death--

    With a loyal gravity.

    Lead her from the festive boards,

    Point her to the starry skies,

    Guard her, by your truthful words,

    Pure from courtship's flatteries.'

    MRS. BROWNING.

    'Mr. Henry Lennox.' Margaret had been thinking of him only a
    moment before, and remembering his inquiry into her probable
    occupations at home. It was 'parler du soleil et l'on en voit les
    rayons;' and the brightness of the sun came over Margaret's face
    as she put down her board, and went forward to shake hands with
    him. 'Tell mamma, Sarah,' said she. 'Mamma and I want to ask you
    so many questions about Edith; I am so much obliged to you for
    coming.'

    'Did not I say that I should?' asked he, in a lower tone than
    that in which she had spoken.

    'But I heard of you so far away in the Highlands that I never
    thought Hampshire could come in.

    'Oh!' said he, more lightly, 'our young couple were playing such
    foolish pranks, running all sorts of risks, climbing this
    mountain, sailing on that lake, that I really thought they needed
    a Mentor to take care of them. And indeed they did; they were
    quite beyond my uncle's management, and kept the old gentleman in
    a panic for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. Indeed, when I
    once saw how unfit they were to be trusted alone, I thought it my
    duty not to leave them till I had seen them safely embarked at
    Plymouth.'

    'Have you been at Plymouth? Oh! Edith never named that. To be
    sure, she has written in such a hurry lately. Did they really
    sail on Tuesday?'

    'Really sailed, and relieved me from many responsibilities. Edith
    gave me all sorts of messages for you. I believe I have a little
    diminutive note somewhere; yes, here it is.'

    'Oh! thank you,' exclaimed Margaret; and then, half wishing to
    read it alone and unwatched, she made the excuse of going to tell
    her mother again (Sarah surely had made some mistake) that Mr.
    Lennox was there.

    When she had left the room, he began in his scrutinising way to
    look about him. The little drawing-room was looking its best in
    the streaming light of the morning sun. The middle window in the
    bow was opened, and clustering roses and the scarlet honeysuckle
    came peeping round the corner; the small lawn was gorgeous with
    verbenas and geraniums of all bright colours. But the very
    brightness outside made the colours within seem poor and faded.
    The carpet was far from new; the chintz had been often washed;
    the whole apartment was smaller and shabbier than he had
    expected, as back-ground and frame-work for Margaret, herself so
    queenly. He took up one of the books lying on the table; it was
    the Paradiso of Dante, in the proper old Italian binding of white
    vellum and gold; by it lay a dictionary, and some words copied
    out in Margaret's hand-writing. They were a dull list of words,
    but somehow he liked looking at them. He put them down with a
    sigh.

    'The living is evidently as small as she said. It seems strange,
    for the Beresfords belong to a good family.'

    Margaret meanwhile had found her mother. It was one of Mrs.
    Hale's fitful days, when everything was a difficulty and a
    hardship; and Mr. Lennox's appearance took this shape, although
    secretly she felt complimented by his thinking it worth while to
    call.

    'It is most unfortunate! We are dining early to-day, and having
    nothing but cold meat, in order that the servants may get on with
    their ironing; and yet, of course, we must ask him to
    dinner--Edith's brother-in-law and all. And your papa is in such
    low spirits this morning about something--I don't know what. I
    went into the study just now, and he had his face on the table,
    covering it with his hands. I told him I was sure Helstone air
    did not agree with him any more than with me, and he suddenly
    lifted up his head, and begged me not to speak a word more
    against Helstone, he could not bear it; if there was one place he
    loved on earth it was Helstone. But I am sure, for all that, it
    is the damp and relaxing air.'

    Margaret felt as if a thin cold cloud had come between her and
    the sun. She had listened patiently, in hopes that it might be
    some relief to her mother to unburden herself; but now it was
    time to draw her back to Mr. Lennox.

    'Papa likes Mr. Lennox; they got on together famously at the
    wedding breakfast. I dare say his coming will do papa good. And
    never mind the dinner, dear mamma. Cold meat will do capitally
    for a lunch, which is the light in which Mr. Lennox will most
    likely look upon a two o'clock dinner.'

    'But what are we to do with him till then? It is only half-past
    ten now.'

    'I'll ask him to go out sketching with me. I know he draws, and
    that will take him out of your way, mamma. Only do come in now;
    he will think it so strange if you don't.'

    Mrs. Hale took off her black silk apron, and smoothed her face.
    She looked a very pretty lady-like woman, as she greeted Mr.
    Lennox with the cordiality due to one who was almost a relation.
    He evidently expected to be asked to spend the day, and accepted
    the invitation with a glad readiness that made Mrs. Hale wish she
    could add something to the cold beef. He was pleased with
    everything; delighted with Margaret's idea of going out sketching
    together; would not have Mr. Hale disturbed for the world, with
    the prospect of so soon meeting him at dinner. Margaret brought
    out her drawing materials for him to choose from; and after the
    paper and brushes had been duly selected, the two set out in the
    merriest spirits in the world.

    'Now, please, just stop here for a minute or two, said Margaret.
    'These are the cottages that haunted me so during the rainy
    fortnight, reproaching me for not having sketched them.'

    'Before they tumbled down and were no more seen. Truly, if they
    are to be sketched--and they are very picturesque--we had better
    not put it off till next year. But where shall we sit?'

    'Oh! You might have come straight from chambers in the Temple,'
    instead of having been two months in the Highlands! Look at this
    beautiful trunk of a tree, which the wood-cutters have left just
    in the right place for the light. I will put my plaid over it,
    and it will be a regular forest throne.'

    'With your feet in that puddle for a regal footstool! Stay, I
    will move, and then you can come nearer this way. Who lives in
    these cottages?'

    'They were built by squatters fifty or sixty years ago. One is
    uninhabited; the foresters are going to take it down, as soon as
    the old man who lives in the other is dead, poor old fellow!
    Look--there he is--I must go and speak to him. He is so deaf you
    will hear all our secrets.'

    The old man stood bareheaded in the sun, leaning on his stick at
    the front of his cottage. His stiff features relaxed into a slow
    smile as Margaret went up and spoke to him. Mr. Lennox hastily
    introduced the two figures into his sketch, and finished up the
    landscape with a subordinate reference to them--as Margaret
    perceived, when the time came for getting up, putting away water,
    and scraps of paper, and exhibiting to each other their sketches.
    She laughed and blushed Mr. Lennox watched her countenance.

    'Now, I call that treacherous,' said she. 'I little thought you
    were making old Isaac and me into subjects, when you told me to
    ask him the history of these cottages.'

    'It was irresistible. You can't know how strong a temptation it
    was. I hardly dare tell you how much I shall like this sketch.'

    He was not quite sure whether she heard this latter sentence
    before she went to the brook to wash her palette. She came back
    rather flushed, but looking perfectly innocent and unconscious.
    He was glad of it, for the speech had slipped from him
    unawares--a rare thing in the case of a man who premeditated his
    actions so much as Henry Lennox.

    The aspect of home was all right and bright when they reached it.
    The clouds on her mother's brow had cleared off under the
    propitious influence of a brace of carp, most opportunely
    presented by a neighbour. Mr. Hale had returned from his
    morning's round, and was awaiting his visitor just outside the
    wicket gate that led into the garden. He looked a complete
    gentleman in his rather threadbare coat and well-worn hat.

    Margaret was proud of her father; she had always a fresh and
    tender pride in seeing how favourably he impressed every
    stranger; still her quick eye sought over his face and found
    there traces of some unusual disturbance, which was only put
    aside, not cleared away.

    Mr. Hale asked to look at their sketches.

    'I think you have made the tints on the thatch too dark, have you
    not?' as he returned Margaret's to her, and held out his hand for
    Mr. Lennox's, which was withheld from him one moment, no more.

    'No, papa! I don't think I have. The house-leek and stone-crop
    have grown so much darker in the rain. Is it not like, papa?'
    said she, peeping over his shoulder, as he looked at the figures
    in Mr. Lennox's drawing.

    'Yes, very like. Your figure and way of holding yourself is
    capital. And it is just poor old Isaac's stiff way of stooping
    his long rheumatic back. What is this hanging from the branch of
    the tree? Not a bird's nest, surely.'

    'Oh no! that is my bonnet. I never can draw with my bonnet on; it
    makes my head so hot. I wonder if I could manage figures. There
    are so many people about here whom I should like to sketch.'

    'I should say that a likeness you very much wish to take you
    would always succeed in,' said Mr. Lennox. 'I have great faith in
    the power of will. I think myself I have succeeded pretty well in
    yours.' Mr. Hale had preceded them into the house, while Margaret
    was lingering to pluck some roses, with which to adorn her
    morning gown for dinner.

    'A regular London girl would understand the implied meaning of
    that speech,' thought Mr. Lennox. 'She would be up to looking
    through every speech that a young man made her for the
    arriere-pensee of a compliment. But I don't believe Margaret,--Stay!'
    exclaimed he, 'Let me help you;' and he gathered for her some velvety
    cramoisy roses that were above her reach, and then dividing the
    spoil he placed two in his button-hole, and sent her in, pleased
    and happy, to arrange her flowers.

    The conversation at dinner flowed on quietly and agreeably. There
    were plenty of questions to be asked on both sides--the latest
    intelligence which each could give of Mrs. Shaw's movements in
    Italy to be exchanged; and in the interest of what was said, the
    unpretending simplicity of the parsonage-ways--above all, in the
    neighbourhood of Margaret, Mr. Lennox forgot the little feeling
    of disappointment with which he had at first perceived that she
    had spoken but the simple truth when she had described her
    father's living as very small.

    'Margaret, my child, you might have gathered us some pears for
    our dessert,' said Mr. Hale, as the hospitable luxury of a
    freshly-decanted bottle of wine was placed on the table.

    Mrs. Hale was hurried. It seemed as if desserts were impromptu
    and unusual things at the parsonage; whereas, if Mr. Hale would
    only have looked behind him, he would have seen biscuits and
    marmalade, and what not, all arranged in formal order on the
    sideboard. But the idea of pears had taken possession of Mr.
    Hale's mind, and was not to be got rid of.

    'There are a few brown beurres against the south wall which are
    worth all foreign fruits and preserves. Run, Margaret, and gather
    us some.'

    'I propose that we adjourn into the garden, and eat them there'
    said Mr. Lennox.

    'Nothing is so delicious as to set one's teeth into the crisp,
    juicy fruit, warm and scented by the sun. The worst is, the wasps
    are impudent enough to dispute it with one, even at the very
    crisis and summit of enjoyment.

    He rose, as if to follow Margaret, who had disappeared through
    the window he only awaited Mrs. Hale's permission. She would
    rather have wound up the dinner in the proper way, and with all
    the ceremonies which had gone on so smoothly hitherto, especially
    as she and Dixon had got out the finger-glasses from the
    store-room on purpose to be as correct as became General Shaw's
    widow's sister, but as Mr. Hale got up directly, and prepared to
    accompany his guest, she could only submit.

    'I shall arm myself with a knife,' said Mr. Hale: 'the days of
    eating fruit so primitively as you describe are over with me. I
    must pare it and quarter it before I can enjoy it.'

    Margaret made a plate for the pears out of a beetroot leaf, which
    threw up their brown gold colour admirably. Mr. Lennox looked
    more at her than at the pears; but her father, inclined to cull
    fastidiously the very zest and perfection of the hour he had
    stolen from his anxiety, chose daintily the ripest fruit, and sat
    down on the garden bench to enjoy it at his leisure. Margaret and
    Mr. Lennox strolled along the little terrace-walk under the south
    wall, where the bees still hummed and worked busily in their
    hives.

    'What a perfect life you seem to live here! I have always felt
    rather contemptuously towards the poets before, with their
    wishes, "Mine be a cot beside a hill," and that sort of thing:
    but now I am afraid that the truth is, I have been nothing better
    than a cockney. Just now I feel as if twenty years' hard study of
    law would be amply rewarded by one year of such an exquisite
    serene life as this--such skies!' looking up--'such crimson and
    amber foliage, so perfectly motionless as that!' pointing to some
    of the great forest trees which shut in the garden as if it were
    a nest.

    'You must please to remember that our skies are not always as
    deep a blue as they are now. We have rain, and our leaves do
    fall, and get sodden: though I think Helstone is about as perfect
    a place as any in the world. Recollect how you rather scorned my
    description of it one evening in Harley Street: "a village in a
    tale.'

    'Scorned, Margaret That is rather a hard word.'

    'Perhaps it is. Only I know I should have liked to have talked to
    you of what I was very full at the time, and you--what must I
    call it, then?--spoke disrespectfully of Helstone as a mere
    village in a tale.'

    'I will never do so again,' said he, warmly. They turned the
    corner of the walk.

    'I could almost wish, Margaret----' he stopped and hesitated. It
    was so unusual for the fluent lawyer to hesitate that Margaret
    looked up at him, in a little state of questioning wonder; but in
    an instant--from what about him she could not tell--she wished
    herself back with her mother--her father--anywhere away from him,
    for she was sure he was going to say something to which she
    should not know what to reply. In another moment the strong pride
    that was in her came to conquer her sudden agitation, which she
    hoped he had not perceived. Of course she could answer, and
    answer the right thing; and it was poor and despicable of her to
    shrink from hearing any speech, as if she had not power to put an
    end to it with her high maidenly dignity.

    'Margaret,' said he, taking her by surprise, and getting sudden
    possession of her hand, so that she was forced to stand still and
    listen, despising herself for the fluttering at her heart all the
    time; 'Margaret, I wish you did not like Helstone so much--did
    not seem so perfectly calm and happy here. I have been hoping for
    these three months past to find you regretting London--and London
    friends, a little--enough to make you listen more kindly' (for
    she was quietly, but firmly, striving to extricate her hand from
    his grasp) 'to one who has not much to offer, it is true--nothing
    but prospects in the future--but who does love you, Margaret,
    almost in spite of himself. Margaret, have I startled you too
    much? Speak!' For he saw her lips quivering almost as if she were
    going to cry. She made a strong effort to be calm; she would not
    speak till she had succeeded in mastering her voice, and then she
    said:

    'I was startled. I did not know that you cared for me in that
    way. I have always thought of you as a friend; and, please, I
    would rather go on thinking of you so. I don't like to be spoken
    to as you have been doing. I cannot answer you as you want me to
    do, and yet I should feel so sorry if I vexed you.'

    'Margaret,' said he, looking into her eyes, which met his with
    their open, straight look, expressive of the utmost good faith
    and reluctance to give pain,

    'Do you'--he was going to say--'love any one else?' But it seemed
    as if this question would be an insult to the pure serenity of
    those eyes. 'Forgive me I have been too abrupt. I am punished.
    Only let me hope. Give me the poor comfort of telling me you have
    never seen any one whom you could----' Again a pause. He could
    not end his sentence. Margaret reproached herself acutely as the
    cause of his distress.

    'Ah! if you had but never got this fancy into your head! It was
    such a pleasure to think of you as a friend.'

    'But I may hope, may I not, Margaret, that some time you will
    think of me as a lover? Not yet, I see--there is no hurry--but
    some time----' She was silent for a minute or two, trying to
    discover the truth as it was in her own heart, before replying;
    then she said:

    'I have never thought of--you, but as a friend. I like to think
    of you so; but I am sure I could never think of you as anything
    else. Pray, let us both forget that all this' ('disagreeable,'
    she was going to say, but stopped short) 'conversation has taken
    place.'

    He paused before he replied. Then, in his habitual coldness of
    tone, he answered:

    'Of course, as your feelings are so decided, and as this
    conversation has been so evidently unpleasant to you, it had
    better not be remembered. That is all very fine in theory, that
    plan of forgetting whatever is painful, but it will be somewhat
    difficult for me, at least, to carry it into execution.'

    'You are vexed,' said she, sadly; 'yet how can I help it?'

    She looked so truly grieved as she said this, that he struggled
    for a moment with his real disappointment, and then answered more
    cheerfully, but still with a little hardness in his tone:

    'You should make allowances for the mortification, not only of a
    lover, Margaret, but of a man not given to romance in
    general--prudent, worldly, as some people call me--who has been
    carried out of his usual habits by the force of a passion--well,
    we will say no more of that; but in the one outlet which he has
    formed for the deeper and better feelings of his nature, he meets
    with rejection and repulse. I shall have to console myself with
    scorning my own folly. A struggling barrister to think of
    matrimony!'

    Margaret could not answer this. The whole tone of it annoyed her.
    It seemed to touch on and call out all the points of difference
    which had often repelled her in him; while yet he was the
    pleasantest man, the most sympathising friend, the person of all
    others who understood her best in Harley Street. She felt a tinge
    of contempt mingle itself with her pain at having refused him.
    Her beautiful lip curled in a slight disdain. It was well that,
    having made the round of the garden, they came suddenly upon Mr.
    Hale, whose whereabouts had been quite forgotten by them. He had
    not yet finished the pear, which he had delicately peeled in one
    long strip of silver-paper thinness, and which he was enjoying in
    a deliberate manner. It was like the story of the eastern king,
    who dipped his head into a basin of water, at the magician's
    command, and ere he instantly took it out went through the
    experience of a lifetime. I Margaret felt stunned, and unable to
    recover her self-possession enough to join in the trivial
    conversation that ensued between her father and Mr. Lennox. She
    was grave, and little disposed to speak; full of wonder when Mr.
    Lennox would go, and allow her to relax into thought on the
    events of the last quarter of an hour. He was almost as anxious
    to take his departure as she was for him to leave; but a few
    minutes light and careless talking, carried on at whatever
    effort, was a sacrifice which he owed to his mortified vanity, or
    his self-respect. He glanced from time to time at her sad and
    pensive face.

    'I am not so indifferent to her as she believes,' thought he to
    himself. 'I do not give up hope.'

    Before a quarter of an hour was over, he had fallen into a way of
    conversing with quiet sarcasm; speaking of life in London and
    life in the country, as if he were conscious of his second
    mocking self, and afraid of his own satire. Mr. Hale was puzzled.
    His visitor was a different man to what he had seen him before at
    the wedding-breakfast, and at dinner to-day; a lighter, cleverer,
    more worldly man, and, as such, dissonant to Mr. Hale. It was a
    relief to all three when Mr. Lennox said that he must go directly
    if he meant to catch the five o'clock train. They proceeded to
    the house to find Mrs. Hale, and wish her good-bye. At the last
    moment, Henry Lennox's real self broke through the crust.

    'Margaret, don't despise me; I have a heart, notwithstanding all
    this good-for-nothing way of talking. As a proof of it, I believe
    I love you more than ever--if I do not hate you--for the disdain
    with which you have listened to me during this last half-hour.
    Good-bye, Margaret--Margaret!'
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